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basil & bay


Dinner has been decided upon for this lovely Sunday evening. It’s only supposed to get up to 99 degrees today! It was not decided by me, but instead by my garden. I went out this morning, while it was only 84 degrees, and noticed that if I didn’t do something about the luscious basil going wild and the very tall bay laurel tree in my garden that they would take it over.

I’m thinking about an appetizer of flatbread with basil in the dough, basil oil, and roasted tomatoes with – wait for it… basil pesto! And maybe salmon grilled on top of the bay leaves and lemon slices and also some Yukon gold potatoes braised in stock and more bay leaves.

I’ve had crème brûlée scented with fresh bay leaves, fresh from a bay tree, before, and although it was delicious, I really don’t want to stand over the hot stove in the summer “stirring constantly” (two of my least favorite words!) a steaming custard. After painting that little picture for myself, the crème brûlée is definitely OUT! So something else may be with the bay leaves for dessert – any thoughts out there? I am off to the movies…

……I am thankful no one came up with any dessert ideas because I was actually too busy to even think about dessert today! Dave and I saw Inglorious Basterds early this afternoon and LOVED it! This is from a girl who has to put her hands over her eyes during the icky parts! And there were plenty of icky parts, but I still want to go back and see it again! I’m not a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, I liked Kill Bill(s) and Pulp Fiction but this movie was just so cool, and Brad Pitt… love him even more than before, if that is possible. What about Christoph Waltz? If he isn’t nominated for an Oscar, there is something wrong in the movie biz! Enough about that, this is a “cooking/food blog” so on to the rest of that part of the day…

After the movie and a Costco run, I arrived home at about 3:00 and began making the Grand Basil-Bay Dinner. Good friends, Chris and Kathy Froggatt were to arrive at 6:00, with nice wines in hand! It was a great evening with good friends. They recounted their wonderful vacation cruise to Monaco, Italy, and Greece (ready to go tomorrow after hearing about it all!)

Amidst all the catching up and garden touring, I totally burned (we’ll call it charred!) the flatbread while grilling it. But we enjoyed it anyway because the Bay Leaf Roasted Tomatoes that topped it was still tasty and the Baileyana Chardonnay that Chris brought somehow washed away all thoughts of those nasty carcinogens we were ingesting.

Dinner itself went off much better. We had a fabulous Chasseur Pinot Noir from Sonoma and the bay laurel flavors present in the fish and potatoes were truly sublime. Kathy is not a salmon fan, so I did a “personal-size” piece of halibut for her. I think the individual size is a really nice presentation for a more formal dinner. A bit more work to individually wrap each piece of fish, but it’ll cook faster and it does look fancy!

One last note about the salmon. It is drizzled with olive oil, and any fruity olive oil will do, but I adore our own local Queen Creek Olive Mill Meyer Lemon Olive Oil. It is available locally at A.J.’s or can be ordered online HERE.

And if you are a neighbor or live close enough to drop by, just give me a call if you want to make any of the dishes with the fresh bay leaves. You can have all you’ll need, free for the taking. The salmon recipe uses way too many leaves to purchase at the store in those tiny herb packages when you can actually find it. So don’t be shy, the bay tree grows better when it is pruned, so you’ll be doing me a favor… really!

Basil Flatbread with Roasted Tomatoes, Basil Oil and Pesto

1 tablespoon or 1 package dry yeast
2 cups flour, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, the yeast, and 1/4 cup of flour. Let stand for 20 minutes, this is called the sponge.

Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup lukewarm water, the olive oil, milk, and salt and mix thoroughly. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, elastic, and a little bit tacky to the touch, about 8 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn the dough over to cover with oil.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising make the Basil Oil and Roasted Tomatoes, recipes below.

Punch dough down. Turn out onto the floured surface. Divide in half; knead each piece just until smooth. Cover with towel; let rise until almost doubled, 15 minutes.

Basil Oil
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3/4 cup olive oil

Blanch basil in a medium saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain. Rinse under cold water. Squeeze basil dry between paper towels. Transfer to a blender. Add oil and puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 3/4 cup

6 large tomatoes, each cut in half horizontally
6 fresh thyme sprigs
6 fresh bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons peeled and minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
lemon ends (optional if leftover from making salmon recipe)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place tomatoes cut side up, in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Place thyme sprigs and bay leaves on top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with garlic and salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil.

Bake until tomatoes is slightly brown around the edges, about 1 hour.roasted-tomatoes

Basil Pesto

3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/4 packed cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Place the garlic and basil in a food processor. Process until rough paste forms. Add half of the cheese and oil and process until the paste is smoother. Add the pine nuts and the remaining oil and cheese.

Preheat the barbecue to medium heat. Form each dough piece on a floured surface to a 12-inch round. Transfer to a floured pizza peel or baking sheet.Brush topside with Basil Oil. Place flatbread, oiled side down, directly on the grill rack. Grill until the bottom is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Brush the top of the bread with Basil Oil. Using a spatula, turn the bread over; grill until golden, another 1 or 2 minutes.

Arrange Roasted Tomatoes on flatbreads. Loosely cover with foil; grill until heated through, about 3 minutes. Top each a little of the pesto. Cut each flatbread into 8 pieces.

Serves 8

Bay Leaf and Lemon Wrapped Grilled Salmon

5 ounces fresh bay leaves (about 80 leaves)
3 or 4 lemons, very thinly sliced into rounds
2 1/2 to 3-pound center-cut salmon fillet with skin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil (or Queen Creek Meyer Lemon Olive Oil)


Lay ten 2-foot-long pieces of kitchen string, side by side and 1- inch apart, on the work surface. Overlap bay leaves atop strings in rectangles about the same size as fish. Top bay leaves with overlapping rows of lemon slices. Sprinkle lemons with salt and pepper.

Lay salmon, skin side down, on top of the lemon. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil.

img_4074Top salmon flesh with overlapping rows of lemon slices, then again with bay leaves. Tightly tie strings, beginning with the middle pieces of string and working toward each end; encasing fish with lemon slices and bay leaves. Place tied fish on grilling basket. This process may be done up to 2 hours ahead. Wrap the basket in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before grilling.


Preheat barbecue to medium-high. Grill fish, in the basket for about 15 to 20 minutes per side, or until just firm to touch. Transfer fish to cutting board. Cut and remove the strings, and the top layer of bay leaves and lemons. Cut into slices and using a spatula slide pieces, along with the bottom layer of bay leaves and lemon slices to dinner plates.

Serves 6

Inspired by the recipe in July 2009 Bon Appetit

Bay Scented Braised Potatoes

2 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes
1/4 cup chicken broth

5 fresh bay leaves
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to tastesalmon-dinner

In a skillet just large enough to hold the potatoes in a single layer, combine the potatoes, broth, bay leaves, garlic, olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cover and cook over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes. Check the broth occasionally and add a little more if the pan begins to dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 6

Roasted Peppers with Bay Leaves

1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 orange bell pepper; roasted, peeled, seeded, and quartered
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 fresh bay leaves

Immediately after peeling peppers, while they are still warm, place peppers in a bowl, and stir in the minced garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in bay leaves. Allow to marinate for about at least 1 hour at room temperature.

Serves 4

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1 Peggy Murrietta { 08.23.09 at 10:56 AM }

So bummed we are missing out on this meal. (Now Mike wants to know why I’m not cooking like this)!

2 Linda Hopkins { 08.23.09 at 11:06 AM }

Next time for sure! And tell Mike, it’s ’cause you don’t have a boatload of basil and bay leaves.

3 Pamela { 08.24.09 at 6:29 PM }

You need to invest in a little camera to carry with you at all times! This is mandatory if you are going to tempt us with the information. I, for one, want to see just how lovely your creations are!

4 Pamela { 08.24.09 at 6:30 PM }

I wrote too soon! Or my computer was too slow to bring up the pics! Looks as lovely as it sounded.

5 Linda Hopkins { 08.24.09 at 6:47 PM }

Thanks Pam… my computer is sometimes so dang slow when loading them, I can get all the dishes from dinner done before they load! Any “blogger” advice you want to give though is always appreciated, especially after seeing your amazing site!

6 Peggy Murrietta { 09.19.09 at 5:06 PM }

I love the looks of the bay leaf and lemon wrapped grilled salmon. Where can I buy one of the grilling baskets? Can’t wait to make it!

7 Linda Hopkins { 09.19.09 at 7:46 PM }

You are one funny girl, Peggy! This was the dinner I invited you too! It’s OK, today’s post is just for you! xoxo

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